And don’t forget the pets
We all know that it is not safe to leave a child in a car in hot weather, but many don’t realize that it is far more dangerous for a dog or a cat than for a human. A human can sweat, which helps cool the body. A dog has only a few sweat glands in the pads of his feet. He keeps cool in hot weather by panting. When your dog pants, he inhales fresh air through his nose. The nose contains a maze of moist surfaces that are cooled by evaporation. If the dog is in a hot car, the air he breathes in is not cool enough to do him much good. He can suffer from heat stroke much more quickly than a person would. This also explains why large, hard working dogs have bigger noses than little, less active dogs.
Cats, like dogs, have sweat glands only in their feet and keep cool by licking themselves. When the cat’s saliva evaporates, it helps to cool their bodies. Their saliva contains a kind of ‘detergent’ that keeps their fur clean and sweet smelling and helps to remove dead hair and dirt. Your cat’s wild ancestors had to hunt for their food and, since the animals they hunted had keen senses of smell, it was important that the cats kept themselves smelling clean. When a cat is exposed to sunlight, vitamin D is produced on her fur. Licking helps her obtain that important nutrient. Cats, unfortunately, can’t clean their own ears very well– companion cats will often do that for each other. If yours is an “only cat” you should clean her ears periodically. Rubbing her cheeks against hard objects, like the corner of your coffee table, means her teeth need cleaning. Yes, your vet can do that for you.
My mother referred to all cats as “she” and to all dogs as “he” no matter which sex they were. I used to wonder why she did that until I realized that cats have characteristics that seem feminine to humans, and dogs seem more masculine. Cats are generally affectionate, shyer, and more easily contented. Dogs are more boisterous, like to hang out in groups, and like to be in charge of things. This has little to do with the actual sex of your pet– they are characteristics of the species.
Our domestic cats descended from wild cats and their ancestors lived and hunted alone. They did not develop the social behaviors that dogs have. Cats use a lot of body language, and they interpret your body language in their terms. Many persons who don’t like cats tend to hunch their shoulders and pull back when a cat enters the room. Unfortunately for the non-cat-lover, that action means “let’s get acquainted.” Dogs are descended from wolves and, in nature, live in packs. Social behavior is very structured and enforced in packs. If you have more than one dog, you know that one dominates the other and has the role of leader.
Puppies and kittens both learn from their mothers and siblings and, if taken from their mothers too soon, they fail to develop some of the good behavior we expect. A kitten who did not stay home long enough to learn to hunt will probably never be much of a mouser. And one who did not learn to keep itself and its environment clean will be difficult to train to use a litter-box reliably. Cats in the wild tend to stay in one area and have learned to keep their lairs clean. Good grooming is another admirable trait they learn only from their mothers.
Puppies learn a lot about taking orders before they are weaned. Their mothers are quick to nip and scold for undesirable behavior. You’ve seen a puppy go “belly up” when it’s been scolded– that’s typical pack behavior. And licking the face of their mother– or that of the “top dog” in a pack– is an act of respect. If your dog jumps up and licks your face, you might want to reconsider scolding him for it– he is simply showing you his high regard.
Both cats and dogs are territorial, though often in different ways. Dogs will guard their territory and even attack an intruder they consider to be a threat. They consider your family to be their pack and most dogs will protect all family members as well as the property he deems to be his. Snarling and teeth-baring are sure signs of aggression and can result in biting. If your dog seems hostile to visitors, you should warn them to not enter your property unless you are there and to avoid direct stares. Dogs perceive prolonged direct eye-contact as a challenge to fight and, as such, it is an invitation for him to bite you.
Cats, because of their smaller size, are not as inclined to be aggressive to strangers– they will most likely retreat and watch from a distance when a stranger enters their territory. A switching tail, or one that is fluffed up, means that the cat is angry or annoyed, and failing to leave the cat alone is to risk being scratched or bitten. When cats are happy, they hold their tails straight up. A dog that holds his tail straight up is on the alert and being cautious. A wagging dog tail means just what you think it does– joy.